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ECU / Psychology / PSYC 3225 / What is an independent variable?

What is an independent variable?

What is an independent variable?


School: East Carolina University
Department: Psychology
Course: Psychology of Learning
Professor: Poteat
Term: Winter 2016
Tags: Psychology, psychologyoflearning, and psyc3225
Cost: 50
Name: PSYC 3225, Exam 1 Study Guide
Description: This study guide covers the material expected to be on the next Exam. After reading all chapters as well as the power-points provided, I synthesized this study guide to best prepare for the first exam. This includes the complete set of study guide material offered from Dr. Poteat, and specific information I thought was important from the chapter readings and notes.
Uploaded: 02/21/2016
12 Pages 35 Views 8 Unlocks

Basics!!! (if you are constantly confused between the 2, I feel I can put it in a way  that’s easy to understand)

What is an independent variable?

“The definitions”

Independent variable= the variable the experimenter determines independent of  the subjects control

Dependent variable= the variable generated by the subject that the experimenter  measures.

^^ This definition is more complicated than it needs to be, in simpler terms: the  INDEPENDENT variable affects the DEPENDANT variable

For example: Amount of Studying done (independent variable) will affect your exam  grade (dependent variable)  

intervening variable is a hypothetical concept that attempts to explain  relationships between variables, and especially the relationships between  independent variable and dependent variables.

Placebo and sham treatment are methods used in medical trials to help  researchers determine the effectiveness of a drug or treatment. Placebos are  inactive substances used to compare results with active substances. And in sham  treatments, the doctor goes through the motions without actually performing the  treatment. 

What is an operational definition?

Operational Definition= An operational definition is how we (the researcher)  decide to measure out the variables in our study (variable = anything that can be  measured).

Naturalistic Observation: Means we are observing organisms (humans or animals)  in their natural (or semi-natural) environment

Preparedness=(as a term used in learning) just means that it is easier to teach  certain behaviors and relationships to a given species than other behaviors or  relationships. It is easy to teach a pigeon to peck at a button but harder to teach the  pigeon to use a leg to press a lever. Don't forget about the age old question of What are the accounting standards in the us?

Learning= the feature by which we can alter our skills, change our dispositions, and  add to our knowledge, and generally benefit or suffer from experience resulting in  a relatively permanent change.  

What is naturalistic observation?

• Learning is a result of experience and not due to physical changes such as  maturation or the ingestion of drugs.  Those events may change your behavior  but do not constitute learning

• Behavior changes due to learning must be relatively enduring and due to  interaction with the environment

• Demonstrated by performance

Categories of Learning – I will discuss these in depth within the study guide!

• Adaptation to the environment (habituation and sensitization • Classical Conditioning (Also known as pavlovian conditioning, respondent  conditioning, s-s learning) If you want to learn more check out What is a psychosocial crisis?

• Instrumental or Operant Conditioning (also known as S-R Learning)

Man, The machine and the role of ‘mind’

• Proposed that the body operates mechanically via reflex actions, similar to  machinery

• Reflexes activated by stimuli in the environment

• A reflex connects a stimulus (S) with a response (R)

Hedonism= all human thought is governed by seeking pleasure and avoiding  pain

Morgan’s Canon=behavior should not be explained by a complex process if a  simpler one works.  

Memory= the expression of learning, revealed in alterations of our performance across a broad range of daily activities.  We also discuss several other topics like What is neuron?

Anterograde amnesia= losing the capacity to form new lasting memories.  Retrograde amnesia= losing memories prior to brain damage.  

Long term memory divided into explicit and implicit memory=  Basically Explicit Memory or Declarative Memory refers to things you can verbal  express. Knowing you address is an example of Explicit Memory.  Implicit  Memory refers to memory that does not require the ability to express what you  know.  An example, would feeling fear when you see a stimulus that has been  used to condition a fear response using shock.  (Implicit memories may be  capable of being verbally expressed but verbal expression is not necessary. Don't forget about the age old question of Who fought against european imperialism in somalia?
Don't forget about the age old question of Who was the first state women gained full suffrage?

Explicit and declarative memory (cognitive memory)= memories can be  consciously recalled.  

Implicit memory (behavioral memory)= memories are expressed through  changes in behavior, typically the speed with which we execute a behavior or  change our preferences and aversions without conscious recollection.  

Implicit (Behavioral) Memory Explicit (Cognitive)Memory Simple forms Working Memory Habituation Don't forget about the age old question of Which market structure has no competition between firms?


Perceptual Learning Episodic Memory Procedural Learning Semantic Memory Emotional Memory

Subtypes of Implicit (behavioral) memory

Perceptual learning and memory= non- associative form of learning that is the  improvement in perception of categories of stimuli that we are required to  discriminate.

Procedural learning= the acquisition of reflexive behaviors and habits (learning  how to drive a car)

Emotional memory= the acquisition of attractions and aversions to otherwise  neutral stimuli,

Subtypes of Explicit (cognitive) memory 

working memory= involves information we keep in mind by active rehearsal or  manipulation.

Episodic memory= provides permanent record of personal experience. Semantic memory= we use to permanently organize factual information.

The Nervous System 

-composed of cells

-Inside nerve cells are a high concentration of potassium ions, while outside the cell  there is a high concentration of sodium ions. 

-Neurons most important part of nervous system (glial cells provide support for  neurons)

Synapse= where signals travel between neurons (cells that are the basic elements  of information processing) via chemical transmission from an axon of one neuron to  the dendrites or cell body of the next.

AKA Information is transmitted from cell to cell across synapses

Dendrites= extensions of the membrane that receive information from other  neurons

Dendrites have a branched arborization pattern to facilitate contacts with  other neurons. (Hint: think of tree branches.) 

Axon= sends information to other neurons

Synaptic Potential= signals carried within synapses and dendrites that are  relatively small and variable in size, decrease as they travel along the dendrites  toward the cell body.  

The neuron cell bodies add together the small and varying synaptic potentials. If  they reach a particular threshold at the origin of the axon, the cell fires and  generates a much larger signal called the action potential (overall amplitude of  100MV), which has a constant size and travels along the axon over long distances.  When this action potential arrives at the synapse, chemicals called  neurotransmitters transmit the signal to activate the synaptic potential in the  dendrite of the next neuron.  

Neurotransmitters: Dopamine, Norepinephrine(mood, arousal, sexual behavior), Serotonin (sleep mood, sexual behavior, anxiety), GABA

Ligands fit receptors exactly and activate or block them:

• Endogenous ligands—neurotransmitters and hormones

• Exogenous ligands—drugs and toxins from outside the body

Criteria for Neurotransmitters:

1. Substance exists in presynaptic axon terminals (look below)

2. Is synthesized in presynaptic cells

3. Is released when action potentials reach axon terminals

4. Receptors for the substance exist on postsynaptic membrane

5. When applied, substance produces changes In the postsynaptic cell Simplified: Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that transmit a signal across the  Synapse

Presynaptic element (THINK AXONS)= the enlarged end of an axon Postsynaptic element(THINK DENDRITES)= specialized area of the dendrite or  cell body with receptors for the neurotransmitters

(NOTE: information is transmitted from the presynaptic element to the  postsynaptic element)

These 2 elements separated by a small gap called the synaptic cleft

Synaptic vesicles= tiny packets that allow neurotransmitters to travel between  neurons (found in the synaptic boutons)

When an action potential arrives at the presynaptic element, the synaptic vesicles  bind with the membrane of the presynaptic element and release their  neurotransmitters, which diffuse across the synaptic cleft.  

Nodes of Ranvier—regularly spaced small gaps in the insulating myelin sheath Multiple Sclerosis cause the loss of insulating myelin sheath from axons in various  regions of the brain

Axon Hillcock= this is where the electrical impulse that stimulates  

neurotransmitter release arises, thereby transmitting information. Where the  integration of excitatory and inhibitory post synaptic potentials occurs.  

☺ So I thought of a personal example to help identify the function of the nervous  system. I have generalized anxiety disorder. This is categorized and implicated by a  decrease in serotonin (NEUROTRANSMITTER). I ultimately have a decrease of  Serotonin, which means this neurotransmitter is not transmitting signals to activate  the synaptic potential within the synapse. Without this, the neuron cannot reach a  particular threshold to generate an action potential. When this happens, My body’s  Serotonin transmitters cannot be released (decreased serotonin means increased  anxiety). I take PROZAC, an SSRI (Selective SERETONIN reuptake inhibitors) to help  increase 5-HT activity that allow serotonin to accumulate in the synapses to be able  to reach both the synaptic potential and action potential.  

To some it up a bit more….

Basic functioning cycle of a neuron: 

• The Central Nervous System (CNS) and Peripheal Nervious System (PNS) is  composed of independent cells.

• Information is transmitted from cell to cell across synapses.

• The neuronal cell body and dendrites receive information across synapses. • Dendrites have a branched arborization pattern to facilitate contacts.

• Information is transmitted from the presynaptic neuron to the  postsynaptic neuron.  

• It is very important to remember that just because a neuron receives  stimulation from another neuron (across the synapse), it does NOT mean  that neuron itself will fire (have an action potential).

Cocaine works by blocking a mechanism through which the neurotransmitters  norepinephrine and dopamine are reabsorbed into presynaptic sites. When  someone becomes addicted, the brain and body reduce the number of receptors for  norepinephrine and dopamine.  

The nervous system is composed of 2 main components- the CNS and the PNS -The CNS has 2 main parts: the brain and spinal cord

-The brain is dominated by 2 cerebral hemispheres

-The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the cerebral hemispheres -The two cerebral hemispheres are connected by a bundle of axons known as the Corpus Cassosum

-THE CNS is built to receive sensory information and sends action commands to the  body through a system of major nerves (bundles of axons)

-Spinal nerves connect to the spinal cord and send commands that originate in motor  neurons out from the spinal cord to the body’s organs and muscles. -These spinal nerves carry signals in and out of the PNS which also has 2 major  components: the somatic nervous system that controls skeletal muscles and the  autonomic nervous system that controls the body’s organ functions. (PNS consists  of all parts of the nervous system found outside the skull and spinal column)

Hindbrain- serves a variety of crucial purposes, including control over respiration  an level of arousal (that is, sleep and wakefulness)

*** on the surface of the hindbrain is the cerebellum, a large structure that  supports fine coordination of movement and learning.  

It is also essential for learned coordination between specific sensory stimuli  and adjustments to movements. EX: blinking in anticipation of an air puff. Forebrain 

-2 subdivisions: the lower, thalamus(set of nuclei with various purposes in  communicating information from the lower brain areas to the cerebral cortex) And at the bottom of the thalamus is the hypothalamus (regulates basic survival  behaviors like eating, sleeping, sex)

-Surface of the forebrain are 2 roughly symmetrical cerebral hemispheres. One  hemisphere is the (1) limbic system (include structures important for learning and  memory).

-- Limbic System Lies on both sides of the Thalamus, just under the cerebellum The other is the (2) Basal Ganglia (important in motor control), include four nuclei: The caudate nucleus, the putamen, and the globus pallidus under the cerebral  cortex

The striatum refers to a small group of contiguoussubcortical structures:  the caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens. The striatum (primarily the dorsal  striatum) is one of the main input areas for the basal ganglia. It receives the bulk of  its incoming fibers from the cerebral cortex, but it also receivesafferent fibers from  the substantia nigra and thalamus

I will discuss 2 structures of the limbic system:

One structure is the hippocampus is essential to conscious memory (especially  long-term) and learning. This is where declarative or explicit knowledge is encoded. It is located in the temporal lobe within the center of the brain. Another structure is  the amygdala that coordinates emotional responses to stimuli (regulation) and  perception of odor.

The cerebral hemispheres also include 4 lobes:

Frontal= most anterior region

Parietal= lies between the frontal and occipital lobes, touch- based senses Occipital= posterior region, visual processing

Temporal= The major cortical area involved in complex cognitive tasks such as  memory/auditory processing, emotion, language comprehension, and hearing lateral region,

--- Researchers also talk about the Insular Lobe

Impaired emotional responses and social interactions (such as angry outbursts) are  linked to damage in the Frontal cortex. 

The Frontal Lobe and specifically the prefrontal cortex mediate a variety of  executive functions (although the other lobes are also involved through  various neural pathways). 

The brain service has 2 types of area: A *gyrus* is a ridged or raised portion of the  convoluted brain surface  

A sulcus is a furrow of the convoluted brain surface

Habituation= our capacity to ‘tune out’ inconsequential stimuli. - Reduction in response (eventually the response disappears or is greatly  diminished) to a sensory stimulation that results in an autonomic response like blinking

- Thought of as learning to ignore a stimulus that is not biological important - Stimulus and response SPECIFIC(meaning it decreases only the response  executed repetitively following a specific stimulus)

- Higher stimulus intensities result in slower habituation - Used to test learning and memory in infants

- Ex: we don’t notice our clothing touching our skin, no longer hearing a  background noise in your room such as a heater or fan.

- Occurs at the sensory response *(S-R)* circuit level or system

- Allows us to not attend to unimportant stimuli

- The Law of Exercise states that the S-R connection is strengthened by use  and weakened with disuse. 

(HINT: think habit, you are no longer aware, it just comes naturally)

Sensitization= the opposite of habituation.

-When we become more aware of and responsive to stimuli for a substantial period -occurs when there is an increase in the magnitude of behavioral  responsiveness to stimuli 

-occurs at the state (arousal) level or system

-makes us more aware of the same stimulus

-ex: Say you are subject to a loud noise (such as a falling tree limb that startles  you) now you are sensitized to all loud noises and correlate them to something scary with a different alter motive . You may here things you did  not notice before.

Habituation and Sensitization are the simplest forms of learning and are considered  forms of non-associative Learning: their effects require no specific association  with action or consequences. Meaning we are not learning that one-stimulus signals another stimulus or learning that certain responses result in certain stimuli.  

A **fixed action pattern** is a behavior that is innate and demonstrated by all  members of the species. 

Sensory Adaptation= occurs at the sensory organ level when sensory receptors change their sensitivity to the stimulus. NONSPECIFIC LOSS OF RESPONSES TO A  STIMULUS. Not stimulus or response specific.  

Fatigue= refers to a motor neuron responsible for muscle contractions ceasing to  respond respond because of an energy deficit.

Eric Kandel and the his research on Aplysia 

• Examined the behavioral, anatomical, and physiological properties of  habituation and sensitization in Aplysia, a large sea snail.  

- Most of the study focused on the gill withdrawal reflex 

- Snail extends its gills at rest along with a fleshy continuation of the gill called  the siphon.. BUT it is a delicate organ that is easily damaged 

- Therefore, when signs of danger, the snail can withdraw the gill and siphon - A small flap called the mantle shelf covers the gill and siphon  - *** Rapid, lasting habituation can be observed in the Aplysia gill withdrawal  reflex. ***

In Aplysia, the role of the facilitatory interneuron is to increase the release of  neurotransmitter from the sensory neuron.

Perceptual learning (Non- associative): 2 types: 

(1)Perceptual skill learning= improves the ability to detect, discriminate, and  classify sensory stimuli of a particular category

• Improves judgments about general stimulus features.  

• This type of learning and memory involves increased attention or focus on  particular stimulus features (*attentional weighting*), learning what  features are important (feature imprinting), distinguishing stimuli  according to relevant features (differentiation), and combining parts of a  stimulus into an important percept (unitilization)

Ex: If you were to work with a pack of newborn white lab puppies you may think  they all look exactly the same and couldn’t tell the difference between any of them.  After a while of being presented with this stimulus, you could identify or  discriminate the differences between the puppies.

*Factors that influence perceptual skill learning (PSL)*

PSL has 4 main properties that involve the specificity of what is learned, the  role of attention, the speed with which learning occurs, and the role of sleep.

• First, the specific visual experience determines the type of changes induced  in performance and the nervous system ( PSL is quite feature-specific, so the  results are limited to the sensory parameters targeted for training) 

• Second, attention and motivation influence the extent of learning (learning  occurs only for the relevant stimulus and not the irrelevant stimulus that  receives equal exposure) 

• Third, PCL is based on a slow incremental process by which the cerebral  cortex is modified to ‘tune in’ the relevant stimulus dimension. 

• Fourth, sleep may be essential for performance improvements in PCL

(2)Perceptual Memory: the unconscious formation and representation of specific  previously experienced stimuli and the expression of these representations by  unconscious changes in performance and tasks involving those stimuli

**Pavlov’s Classical (or Respondent) Conditioning ** 

Conditioning: a stimulus that initially produces no response can acquire the ability  to produce one.  

Terminology of Conditioning: 

Unconditioned Stimulus (US or UCS)- elicits a reflexive response without learning

Unconditioned response(UR or UCR)- the response that occurs with a US^,  typically a reflex, emotion, or drug state that Is involuntary and automatic.  

Neutral Stimulus: A stimulus not capable of producing an unconditioned response  (before learning).

Conditioned Stimulus(CS)- a previously neutral stimulus that has acquired the  ability to evoke a response.

Conditioned Response (CR)= the learned response, often similar to the UR, an  involuntary reflex, emotion, or drug state.  

Prior to conditioning:

Neutral Stimulus (bell)


(food powder in  dogs mouth

Neutral Stimulus CS (bell)

Orientation to sound but  

no response



During Conditioning, CS is paired with US 


US (Food powder) 





After Conditioning 




Classical conditioning is Stimulus (S) elicited> Response (R) conditioning since the  antecedent stimulus causes the reflexive or involuntary response to occur.  

1. US elicits UR. A stimulus will naturally (without learning) elicit a reflexive  response.

2. A Neutral Stimulus (NS) does not elicit the response of interest: this stimulus  is a neutral stimulus since it does not elicit the UR

3. The NS is repeatedly paired with the US

4. The NS is transformed into a Conditioned Stimulus (CS): this is, when the CS  is presented by itself,  it elicited or causes the CR(which is the same  involuntary response as the UR: the name changes because it is elicited by a  different stimulus) this is written CS elicits > CR.  


1. Learning to feel upset at the sight of flashing police lights in your rearview  mirror

2. Learning to feel anxiety when you hear the sounds at the dentists office 3. Felling tender emotions when you hear a song that was associated with your  first romance.  

Conditioning Processes 

Stimulus generalization= stimuli like the CS become able to evoke the conditioned  response.

Extinction= If the US and CS are not paired, the CS loses its ability to produce a  conditioned response.  

<not a conditioning process>(Exposure therapy is a technique in behavior  therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. It involves the exposure of the patient to the  feared object or context without any danger, in order to overcome their anxiety) Spontaneous Recovery= an extinguished CS briefly returns but quickly goes away  again.  

Dishinibition= phenomenon in which extinguished CR reappears not  spontaneously but in response to another, typically arousing stimulus. This is a line  of evidence that indicates that conditioned responses are not lost during extinction

What is learned? 

-Pavlov believed the association was between the two stimuli (bell and meat  powder), not between the tone and salivation This is called S-S learning  (Stimulus-Stimulus)

-In general, the most effective procedure for producing most classically conditioned associations is the delay conditioning procedure. 

-Classical conditioning works best when: the CS precedes the US 

Factors Affecting Conditioning 

• Timing= how closely in time are the CS and the US, and which occurs first • Novelty for the CS and US 

• Intensity (strength) of the CS and US 

• Consistency of the pairing between the CS and the US (if if one or the other appears  alone then conditioning Is weakened.

The suppression ratio equals= CS responding / (CS responding + pre-CS  responding) 

Contiguity is a behaviorist approach that states, for learning to occur, the response  must occur in the presence of or very soon after a stimulus is presented, or an  association will not occur. In essence, this is a behaviorist view based on the idea  that learning will occur only if events occur relatively close together in time 

Skinners Operant conditioning (S-R Learning) 

(sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that  occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning,  an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. -Operant conditioning relies on a fairly simple premise - actions that are followed by reinforcement will be strengthened and more likely to occur again in the future. Conversely, actions that result in punishment or undesirable consequences will be  weakened and less likely to occur again in the future 

Skinner distinguished between two different types of behaviors: respondent behaviors and operant behaviors. Respondent behaviors are those that occur  automatically and reflexively, such as pulling your hand back from a hot stove or jerking  your leg when the doctor taps on your knee 

Operant behavior, on the other hand, are those under our conscious control Components of Operant Conditioning 

Some key concepts in operant conditioning:


Reinforcement is any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows. There  are two kinds of reinforces: 

1. Positive reinforcers are favorable events or outcomes that are presented after the  behavior. In situations that reflect positive reinforcement, a response or behavior is  strengthened by the addition of something, such as praise or a direct reward.

2. Negative reinforcers involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after  the display of a behavior. In these situations, a response is strengthened by the removal  of something considered unpleasant.

In both of these cases of reinforcement, the behavior increases. 


Punishment, on the other hand, is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that  causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. There are two kinds of punishment: 1. Positive punishment, sometimes referred to as punishment by application, involves

the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it  follows.

2. Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when an  favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs.

In both of these cases of punishment, the behavior decreases. 

How the Morris Water Maze Works (watch the video, you will understand the concept and procedures better than I could ever try to explain them on this study guide) 

http://www.jove.com/video/2920/morris-water-maze-test-for-learning-memory deficits-alzheimers 

The effect of VPA on escape latency in the Morris Maze= VPA improves memory deficits  in AD transgenic mice

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